A number of NHS trusts across England have put in place measures to help staff during the cost of living crisis, but a health union says the move highlights why workers “need an urgent pay rise”.
Sarah Gorton, Union Unison’s head of health, said that while “those struggling to make ends meet would appreciate the extra help”, the initiatives highlight “the exact reason why NHS workers need an urgent pay rise”.
Ms Gorton added: “When health workers rely on financial assistance, it’s no wonder more of them are leaving for better paying and less demanding jobs elsewhere. The government must get the NHS wages right or the workforce crisis will only get worse, and they will suffer.” Patient care Many employees feel they are on strike for better pay and employment is the only option left.”
Which NHS funds have put in place cost-of-living measures for staff?
A number of funds across the country have implemented measures to help employees weather a cost-of-living crisis as food and energy prices soar.
The East Lancashire Hospitals Trust has implemented cost-of-living initiatives such as subsidized meals to ensure staff receive a hot and affordable meal. The trust also has food bank collection points within its premises which are shared with local food banks for the wider community.
The Leeds Community Healthcare Trust said it did not run any food stores for community teams at the moment, but “the idea is being explored”. The Trust also has a range of ongoing staff health and wellbeing packages to support people with problems, including those which may be a result of the cost of living. Another initiative allows employees to track their earnings as they work and immediately transfer up to a maximum of 35% of their total salary already earned to their bank account whenever needed. This means that employees can access their paychecks sooner than the end of the month pay date.
Meanwhile, the NHS Trust Leeds Teaching Hospitals said: “Although we do not run food banks for staff directly, as part of our intensive cost of living provision we do flag surplus food supermarkets as well as food banks around the city.” Staff in the trust can also apply for a £500 hardship grant from the Covid-induced ‘Staff Supportund’. They may do this more than once, depending on their circumstances.
The Cornwall Partnership NHSoundation does not have food banks for staff, but some of its community hospitals have a ‘very careful, locally owned’ sharing and care table where people bring boxes of food and take away when needed. The “Caring and Sharing” initiative was started by Matron Sue Greenwood for staff at Camborne Redruth Community Hospital. It was something they were only doing locally for this particular hospital, until it was also accredited by Helston Community Hospital.
Oxford University Hospitals has also put in place a number of measures to help staff with the increased costs. These include payment of £100 for all staff, a £250 contribution to support sustainable transport costs, access to financial advice from a specialist provider and have also worked with food providers on hospital sites to offer affordable hot food options. A spokesperson said: “We are continuing to work with our people to find ways to help alleviate the cost of living crisis for them.”
To support the wider community in the face of the cost of living crisis, the trust has also introduced collection points to support local food banks at all of its hospital sites. The collection points are not for employees, but for supporting local food banks which in turn support the wider community.
Southampton University Hospital’s NHSoundation Trust has also introduced measures to help staff set food prices. The Trust offered 60% off at its restaurant on hot food, sandwiches, wraps and breakfast items, and discounted food and beverages with on-site caterers and suppliers.
The NHS Trust has a dedicated cost of living team who run a range of initiatives to support staff, including free period products. The trust’s chief executive, Matthew Trainer, gave an update to the board in November, which included running SMILE charity kiosks later in the month where items given to staff in return for a £2 charitable donation will include new and used toys, food and clothing.
In September, Mr. Trainer said he was “fully aware of the detrimental impact the economy is having on some of our staff” and that the trust was continuing to “look at practical ways we can support them”. This included increasing the mileage allowance for people who use their cars as part of their turn and extending the hours of the staff shuttle bus that runs between the two hospitals.
Staff can now also access a percentage of their salary in advance before payday if they need to in order to save on paying high interest rates on payday loans, and the Trust has also distributed donated school uniforms and office wear to staff for free or given them £30 vouchers to be redeemed at School uniform stores.
Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopedic and District NHS Trust in Shropshire offers staff free breakfast and 2 hot meals. The breakfast offer allows employees to choose between a bowl of porridge or two slices of toast with butter. The ‘Warm Winter’ main course offering runs on a rolling menu for four weeks with two options each day – a meat dish or a vegetarian alternative.
The Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHSoundation Trust has set up a Cost of Living group which looks at ways you can support staff, including making a guide to financial well-being and cost of living advice available to colleagues.
“At a time when the cost of living is rising, the chronic staff shortage in the NHS is getting worse.”
Dr Vivek Trivedi, co-chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) Junior Doctors Committee, said: “The fact that NHS staff, who spend their working lives caring for others, cannot feed themselves and their families is a terrible indictment of this government’s cavalier attitude towards the impact of its policies. to many in the community.
He added: “At a time when the cost of living is rising, chronic staff shortages in the NHS are getting worse, and the remaining workforce is affected emotionally and physically by the pandemic, it is sad that this government does not see fit to pay NHS staff fairly for their work.” “.
A government spokesperson said: “We appreciate the hard work of NHS staff and are doing everything we can to support them in these challenging times – including by giving over a million NHS workers a pay rise of at least £1,400 this year as recommended by Independent NHS wages review body, on top of 3% last year when wages were frozen in the wider public sector.
“We are directly supporting families in need following the aftershocks to the economy from the pandemic and Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine, including sending this month another cost of living payment of £324 to more than 8m people, which is part of a £1,200 package. sterling for these people on the lowest income.”